If you want to see southeastern Utah’s national parks and monuments in all of their natural glory, Katrina Lund says that a pen and paper will take you just as far as a good pair of hiking boots.
When Lund bumps into visitors at places like Arches National Park and Natural Bridges National Monument, she encourages them to sit down and sketch what they see in front of them.
“They see so many things that they wouldn’t see if they stopped for a minute and moved on,” she said.
Lund isn’t just speaking as an average park visitor. She’s an ambassador of sorts as the 2015 Community Artist in the Parks for the National Park Service’s Southeast Utah Group.
In the next week alone, she’ll be appearing at Natural Bridges near Blanding on Saturday, July 4, from 5 to 9 p.m., and all day on Sunday, July 5. On Tuesday, July 7, she will be working from 7 to 10 a.m. at Arches National Park’s awe-inspiring Turret Arch.
“There’s endless inspiration in all of these national parks I get to visit,” she said. “I almost have to narrow it down: There are 10 things calling out to me, and what’s the one thing that I want to capture?”
Lund – a biologist by training and experience – began her second career as sketcher purely by accident.
When she set off on an outdoor adventure more than 20 years ago, she realized that she left her camera somewhere else. As a substitute, she grabbed a pen and a sheet of paper in her car, and as she began to sketch the scene around her, she found that she was immediately drawn to the medium.
“There’s something really magical about sketching,” she said. “You remember these details that you don’t really get when you’re taking a photograph.”
When Lund strikes up conversations with park visitors, she’ll suggest that they observe an area for 30 minutes, instead of taking a photo and heading off to the next place on their travel itinerary.
“If you really want to explore a place, sit down and sketch it,” she said.
Arches and Canyonlands Interpretive Specialist Sharon Brussell has seen Lund in action, and she said that her enthusiasm for sketching is obvious when she interacts with park visitors.
“She just put the (art supply) stuff in their hands and said, ‘Hey, give it a try,’” she said.
That’s not to say that she’s demanding, though.
“Her manner is so warm and engaging,” Brussell said.
Brussell herself has joined in on sketching events, and she found that they enhanced her powers of observation.
“It really does make you look at (your surroundings) in much more detail and with more awareness,” she said.
From the plants on the ground to the clouds in the sky and the angles of the park’s sandstone formations, Brussell said she was able to see everything more clearly.
“Nature is the sculptor there, and you see how amazing the sculpture is and just translate it into your own (artwork),” she said.
Lund welcomes people of all ages and abilities, including novices, to join her.
“You don’t have to think that you’re a good artist to enjoy sketching,” she said. “That’s not what it’s about.”
Just recently, she persuaded a Wisconsin man who had misgivings about his artistic skills into giving it a try.
“He sat down and whipped out this sketch that was just amazing,”she said.
Once he overcame his initial reluctance, the man eased into the group of sketchers and spent the next six hours with them.
“It was so great to see that transformation within him, and to hear how excited he was to go back to Wisconsin and show everyone what he’d done,” she said.
If visitors don’t have any art supplies with them, but are still interesting in sketching, Lund will hand out little kits that include the essentials.
Beyond this week’s events, there are still other opportunities to see Lund at work.
She will be appearing at the Arches Visitor Center on Thursday, July 23, followed by appearances at Hovenweep National Monument on Sunday, July 26, and Monday, July 27. Lund is also hosting a series of “sketch crawls” – which are similar to pub crawls – continuing on Sunday, Aug. 23, at Hovenweep National Monument. The last two sketch crawls will be held at Arches on Saturday, Sept. 5, and Saturday, Oct. 10.
Prints of Lund’s plein air originals are available at the Arches Visitor Center. For more information, go to katrinalund.com.
Artist Katrina Lund to appear at Turret Arch on July 7
If you really want to explore a place, sit down and sketch it.